From Melbourne to Kyoto, Hvar Grapes on Tour with British Master of Wine

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Mayu El Khoury Imafuku

February 15, 2019 – A British Master of Wine, some grapes from Hvar, and wine-drinking audiences in Japan and Australia. 

It is one of my favourite Croatian wine stories, and one which is truly going international. 

Croatia, of course, has already made several significant contributions to the international wine story. The original Zinfandel comes from Kastela, just outside Split, the contribution of Miljenko ‘Mike’ Grgic in California is much talked about since the famous Judgment of Paris in 1976, and the rise of the New Zealand wine story owes a debt to Sir George Fistonish, whose family hailed from Hvar. 

And now the grapes of Hvar are popping up in the unlikeliest places – Tokyo, Kyoto, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. And not through a Hvar winemaker, but a British winemaker making the very best of the indigenous grapes of Hvar – grapes from Hvar, hands from London – including one which was named in the top 10 wines in all Croatia in 2017

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It is almost 5 years since I first interviewed Jo Ahearne MW at a Plavac Mali masterclass by Sasa Spiranec at Dalmacija Wine Expo. Things moved quickly after that, with Ahearne deciding to move to the island of Hvar to make her own wine using the indigenous grapes of the island. Her first product for the market was a rosé called Rosina from the local Darnekusa grape. 

The first Master of Wine to make wine in Croatia, Ahearne faced the additional challenges of island living, Croatian bureaucracy and running a business in a country where she does not speak the language. But progress has been steady, and the national – and international – reputation of her wines has been growing steadily. 

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And reaching parts of the globe where no Hvar wines have gone before. New clients in both Australia and Japan have imported the wines from Ahearne Vino, and Jo Ahearne is currently on a promotional tour of her wines. it has led to some rather interesting food pairings:

“Rosina paired with red prawn Vietnamese rice roll and a hint of orange skin grated over it. Genius pairing.” 

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Ahearne in action in Tokyo, at a seminar organised by Japanese importer, Vins d”Olive

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The tastings in Tokyo and Kyoto followed Australian appearances in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Above, Wild Skins, a cuvee of Bogdanusa, Kuc and Posip, relaxing in the shade in the Barossa Valley. 

Grapes from Hvar, Hands from London – a winning combination which is taking the Hvar wine story to a different level. 

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